Pulitzer Prize winner Annie Dillard once claimed, “You don’t have to sit outside in the dark. If, however, you want to look at the stars, you will find that darkness is necessary. But the stars neither require nor demand it.”
The road I have traveled has taught me to appreciate the stars, and to brave the darkness to see their light, over and over again.
By re-connecting to my healthy lifestyle, I hope to teach others how to create and sustain their own healthy lifestyles by focusing on both physical and mental health.
Second chances in life seem to become more and more rare as the years go on, but at 27 years old, I am making the most of my second chance.
As a child in Omaha, my family reveled in the outdoors- running, biking, swimming, and playing soccer were all regular occurrences.
However, after losing my best friend to HIV and a rough beginning to college 9 years ago, the darkness started to creep in.
I found myself deep into a scene of drugs and alcohol, I gained weight, and I soon left school.
While, on the outside, I seemed to have it somewhat together, on the inside I was fighting to bring myself back to the light.
I was holding down 3 jobs, maintaining some relationships, and managing to wake up alive every morning, but I was consumed and ravaged by darkness.
Fortunately, the things that created such a steady base for my childhood ended up becoming my saving grace.
In an effort to escape my troubling habits, I returned to the safe haven of the outdoors.
I began running again, and the peace that the sound of my feet on the pavement brought was soul-nourishing.
The natural “high” of running reminded me that few things outside of nature and physical activity can awaken your world in such a profound way.
I continued to train, even though it wasn’t easy.
My weight slowly and painfully shed, and I progressed from walking to running a full marathon.
In the seven years since emerging from the shadows of addiction, I have continued running, hiking, camping, and recently found a love for climbing.
My “second chance” college years are all about integrating this new lifestyle into the rest of my career.
Since returning to college in 2017, I have earned a spotless 4.0 GPA in my classes.
And this, my friends, is where the story gets really good.
Now that I have returned to college, I have shifted my focus to helping others to see the stars through an integrated mind, body, spirit approach.
I am a Human Services student, and I will be getting degrees in Addiction Counseling and Integrated Practice, as well as a certificate in Trauma Victim Advocacy.
My dream career is to open my own counseling service that operates in conjunction with an indoor climbing gym.
I have found that counseling coupled with tangible, physical activity is a fantastic combination in the fight against addiction, trauma, and survival.
By teaching others my love of climbing indoors during therapy sessions, it will open up an avenue to the outdoors.
Sometimes, the hardest part of recovery is being able to recognize, in the moment, when your hard work is “paying off” in the real world.
Transferable lessons are paramount to the success of any person recovering from illness, addiction, or trauma.
While the counseling helps a person to learn new behaviors and coping mechanisms, the gym will help a person practice those same mental exercises in a controlled environment.
The application of the “mental game” of counseling to the “physical game” of climbing will help people to recognize victories, both small and large.
Climbing, especially bouldering, is a great analogy for addiction recovery because the focus is on finding solutions to problems.
Many times, the most difficult step is identifying all angles of a problem.
In life, as in the gym or outside, a problem may look much different far away than it does up close.
Only when you examine it, inspect it, talk through it, do you see the intricate nuances and subtle stumbling blocks that you might not have seen from a distance.
However, the beauty of climbing is that for every problem, there are countless ways to solve that problem.
While there might be a general path that is required and certain moves that are absolutely necessary, how you move your body versus how another climber moves, might differ slightly.
The same is true for addiction counseling; while the path to sobriety and sustained growth in generally the same for everyone, there are always moves that differ from one person to another, based on their own circumstances.
Often, those in recovery struggle with a “canned” version of rehabilitation, group therapy, or counseling because there is no way to express or understand one’s own unique life experiences and struggles.
The approach I would take in practice would seek to capitalize on experience, thinking, and goal setting to find each person’s unique solution to the problem.
Physical health and mental health have the naturally clear distinction between “mind” and “body”; however, according to the Mental Health Foundation, “the two should not be thought of as separate” and I could not agree more.
My name is Emily M Lauritsen and I will be graduating in May 2019 from Washburn University in Topeka, KS. While I am nowhere near being labeled a bodybuilder, I pride myself on keeping my physical health and fitness a priority while also working full time and taking full time credits.